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Over 3000 Participants Expected at “Zero Tolerance to FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) Run”

US Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, to lead delegation of guests

Nairobi, Kenya (PRWEB) February 1, 2010 -- Canadian NGO, The Nancy Nielsen Charitable Foundation, and its Kenyan agent, Cherish Others, a local NGO that opposes female Genital mutilation among the Masai, have organized a demonstration run/walk to protest FGM in the Transmara. The 4 kilometer event will be held in Kilgoris town on Saturday February 6th, International Zero Tolerance of FGM Day. The flag goes down at the starting point, the Losuento Primary School, at 10:30 AM. The run will end at the DEB Primary school. Over 3000 participants are expected. The event aims to sensitize the Maasai community to the dangers of FGM.

Female Genital Mutilation is a thorny issue in Kenya with several communities still hooked on the practice nine years after the government declared it illegal and an abuse of children’s rights.

Nancy Nielsen CEO of her foundation, and Ruth Konchellah, the Director of Cherish Others, will host a high-profile group of attendees including U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger and Vanessa Hynes, wife of the Canadian High Commission to Kenya. Also expected are local Member of Parliament Hon. Gideon Konchellah, Minister for Sports Hon. Helen Sambili and Agnes Pareyio, a well known FGM activist from Narok.

The anti FGM run, which was started in honor of the girl child, has a mission to change attitudes and behavior of the FGM practicing communities and enlightening young girls in the community through alternate rite of passage ceremonies that do not include FGM.

Ruth Konchellah, Director of Cherish Others says: “A Maasai girl grows up with very little understanding of her own sexuality and only comes to terms with it when circumcision is discussed. How and why the procedure is being carried out on her, is not revealed to her. We realized that we had a duty as an organization to educate and inform these girls on the real dangers of this practice.”

Cherish Others has developed educational programs for girls in affected communities. “Given the information we provide about the dangers of the practice, a girl will understand why she does not have to go through with the practice,” says Ruth.

The programs target girls who refuse to undergo FGM, often against the wishes of their parents and relatives. Cherish Others provides alternative shelter at homes of women who support Cherish Others’ work. Coerced victims of FGM are also considered for counseling and shelter, since they risk being married off early without their consent.

“FGM is a culturally sensitive issue in some parts of Kenya, nonetheless we need to create a greater awareness of the negative effects of FGM. It is a great honor for my foundation to support this initiative,” says Nancy Nielsen, of the Nancy Nielsen Charitable Foundation.

Cherish Others mobilizes clan elders and educates them about the harmful effects of FGM.
The graduation of the girls who will have taken part in the alternative rite of passage, will be held after the run where they will be recognized with certificates, crowns and shukas.

For more information, contact Mumbi Keega, Nairobi: Hill & Knowlton: +254 20 4454461-8; Cell: +254 722 366 380; Email: Mumbi(dot)keega(at)hillandknowlton(dot)co(dot)ke

About Nancy Nielsen and Nancy Nielsen Charitable Foundation

Canadian resident Nancy Nielsen was CEO of her own company, an international medical marketing firm, until she retired in 2004 while still in her 40s.

After visiting Kenya 3 years ago and becoming aware of the threat that FGM poses to young women in rural Kenya, Nancy created the Nancy Nielsen Charitable Foundation (which also operates as the legal entity: End FGM) to fund initiatives that raise awareness of the negative effects of FGM in rural Kenya (The TransMara).

With Ruth Konchellah acting as its Kenyan agent, The Nancy Nielsen Charitable Foundation funds FGM awareness events in Kenya, events such as the annual International Zero Tolerance FGM Day run in Kilgoris, Kenya, as well as quarterly alternate right of passage ceremonies organized and managed by Ruth Konchellah. Intended to replace the traditional alternate right of passage ceremony wherein young Maasai girls receive "the cut," each alternate right of passage ceremony routinely attracts up to 100 girls from the Transmara.

It is during the traditional Maasai right of passage ceremony that girls age 10 and up receive genital cutting to make them marriageable. Without the "cut" many young Maasai men and Maasai parents do not consider girls fit for marriage.

Members of the board of The Nancy Nielsen Charitable Foundation are:

Nancy Nielsen: President
Dr. Laura Hughes: Treasurer
Julia Hughes: Secretary
Krista Lopes: Chair

About Ruth Konchellah and Cherish Others Organization

Ruth Konchellah registered Cherish Others as a Kenyan NGO several years ago to combat FGM in rural Maasai communities. Ruth is herself a Maasai.

The focus of Cherish Others includes:

  • HIV/AIDS awareness prevention and control
  • Promoting Girl child rights and Education
  • Campaigning against women marginalization
  • Community based health care management
  • Safe Water and Sanitation

Cherish Others contributes to advocacy campaigns for issues affecting the girl child, such as Female Genital Mutilation FGM, child marriages, education, girl child rights and adolescent pregnancies. It is also involved in mentoring young girls for professional development. The organization is involved in sensitizing the communities about FGM as well as supporting and encouraging girls and women.

Cherish Others also supports girl child orphans from the pastoral Maasai community in Kilgoris. Girls as young as 6 years are subjected to female genital cutting then denied the opportunity to go on with schooling as they are married off immediately. This practice has been identified as a predisposing factor of contracting HIV thereby increasing their vulnerability.

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